Thursday, December 5, 2019
Page 868

Pac-10 preview: The Southern California schools

Prior to the commencement of the 2008-2009 college basketball season, I will profile teams in two conferences, as well as various other teams around the country. Today’s column features Pac-10 Conference rivals the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The sneakers have barely begun to squeak on the floors of the two Southern California powerhouse schools, but the women’s basketball teams at both institutions have already seen some drama.

Not one but two Trojan players – both high school All-Americans – were lost last week to repeat ACL tears. Stefanie Gilbreath, who sat out her freshman year in 2007-2008 with a torn right ACL, sustained the same injury to the same knee, and will miss this season. Jacki Gemelos has already sat out two seasons from ACL tears in her right knee. Last week she tore the ligament in her left knee, and damaged cartilage.

“You shake your head and wonder why this kind of thing happens to good kids,” Coach Mark Trakh said of his injury-prone team. “But both are great kids, and both are looking to come back and have great years next year.”

Across town, there were a few reverberations when UCLA fired longtime coach Kathy Oliver last spring, and hired the University of Tennessee’s brilliant assistant coach Nikki Caldwell as her replacement. Two players chose not to return: Regina Rogers and Alexis Oliver, the former coach’s daughter. Star forward Lindsey Pluimer graduated.

The show must go on, of course, and despite the setbacks, the seasons of both teams have much potential.

USC will be lead by senior guards Camille LeNoir and Brynn Cameron – players who each had to redshirt the 2006-2007 season, and are back for a fifth year to have their senior season. Center Nadia Parker, a true senior, will fill in the third lead role for the team.

As a graduate of Narbonne High School, LeNoir is descended from basketball royalty, and unsurprisingly is an electric player. She returned to her starting role as point guard last year by leading the team in assists, steals, and becoming the second-leading scorer. She made 40 3-point shots during the season, and was named to the all-Pac 10 third team.

Parker, from Washington state, was her team’s scoring, rebounding and blocks leader last year, and was named to the all Pac-10 second team. She was also named Pac-10 player of the week last November.

Other key players back for the Trojans this year are junior guard Heather Oliver, sophomore center Kari LaPlante and junior forward Hailey Dunham.

Newcomers include Ashley Corral, a Washington state guard who will be LeNoir’s back up at point; Briana Gilbreath (Stefanie’s sister), a guard; Michelle Jenkins, an Oregon forward; Taylor Lord, a forward from California; and Daniela Roark, a junior who sat out last year after transferring from Fordham University.

Trakh, entering his fifth season as coach, said he has new goals for the team this year – some of which are tied into the possibility that USC could host the Pac-10 tournament and/or rounds 1 and 2 of the NCAA western regional tournament next year.

“Our goal is to win over 20 games, reach the sweet sixteen and sell out those NCAA games at the Galen Center,” he said. “The future looks great. We’ve just got to get out there and play exciting basketball.”

One intriguing footnote to this year’s Trojan team is the mysterious transfer of junior guard Morghan Medlock to Baylor University. Medlock, also a Narbonne graduate, is widely regarded as the player who triggered the 2006 firing of James Anderson, the longtime coach at the school which has produced numerous key collegiate and WNBA players.

Medlock played two seasons for USC. But early last May, Baylor announced she had signed to play there and would begin classes in June. I have searched the web, and have not found any evidence that USC ever acknowledged the transfer. I’ve also asked local Southern California sources for information, but no one seems to know anything. Neither school has given a reason why Medlock moved.

An All-American in her senior year, Medlock averaged 22 points and 15 rebounds per game, but 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in an average 19 minutes of play at USC.

At UCLA, Caldwell brings an impressive resume to a team that returns 10 letterwinners, including four starters.

Caldwell, a 1994 Tennessee graduate, won a national championship as a freshmen and worked briefly as an assistant coach to Pat Summitt in 1999. Caldwell was assisstant at Virginia from 2000-2002 before returning to work with Summitt in 2003. Caldwell’s teams have posted a 404-76 record and have appeared in the NCAA tournament each season, winning three national championships.

Two of Caldwell’s assistant coaches also have Tennessee connections. Tasha Butts, a 2004 UT graduate, was an assistant coach at Duquesne University last year. Tony Perotti, most recently from Northern Arizona University, used to run summer camps for the Lady Vols and is also a Tennessee graduate. The third coach, Stacie Terry, has been assistant coach at four schools, including the University of Southern Mississippi last year.

Returning starters include junior guard Erica Tukiainen, junior center Moniquee Alexander, sophomore forward Nina Earl and sophomore guard Doreena Campbell. Stars off the bench who will be back are sophomore guard Darxia Morris and senior guard Tierra Henderson.

The Bruins’ two new recruits, both from the Los Angeles area, are generating a lot of buzz among fans.

Antonye Nyinifa comes from Redondo Beach High School in Torrance, where she averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds per game as a senior. She helped her team win the title for its division that year, and was named co-player of the year in the Southern Section. Nyinifa received such awards throughout her high school career, and was regarded as one of the top 10 guard recruits in the nation.

Rebekah Gardner hails from Ayala High School in Fontana, where she was also co-player of the year in her division. As a junior, she helped lead her team to the division title, and last year averaged 19.7 points, 8 rebounds. 3.9 steals and 3 assists per game. As a sophomore, she averaged 28.7 points per game.

Besides keeping an eye on the two freshmen, I’m going to be watching Morris and sophomore forward Christina Nzekwe this year. I went to several UCLA games last year and saw potential in Morris, as I did with Nzekwe.

In the case of Christina, though, I’m also pulling for her because I coached her in track when she was a high school freshman. She has a lot of athletic ability and needs the right basketball coach to teach her more and help refine her game. This is yet another reason I’m very glad Caldwell is there now, because she is a teacher. Christina is also a hard worker and a nice kid, so I hope she has a break out year.

Caldwell has been working hard to promote her team. She made an apperance at several Los Angeles Sparks games and events this summer. At “University of Tennessee Night,” Caldwell sat alongside Coach Pat Summitt and Assistant Coach Holly Warlick during the game. At a post-game function, Caldwell passed out game schedule cards and talked with fans. The Sparks organization also made several UCLA promotional announcements during the UT night game.

But what won me over was an encounter I had with Caldwell and Butts in the Staples Center restroom back on June 22. It was halftime and I was standing at the back of the line, which goes around the corner. About five women ahead of me, right at the corner, was a familiar figure. I leaned out twice to make sure it was her, and then I walked up to her and asked, “aren’t you Coach Caldwell?”

She was very nice, and didn’t seem to think anything of talking to me as I creeped forward in the line with her. We had a fun conversation about her team, the Sparks, and Tennessee. As it was almost her turn, Butts came out of a stall and Caldwell pointed to her. She ducked in to use the facility and I ended up talking to Butts, who was equally enthusiastic. I remember telling Butts about my dilemma in being a fan of the Sparks, whom I used to loathe.

“And I think, ‘what are you doing?’ But -“

“But it’s Tennessee,” Butts said, finishing my sentence correctly.

“But it’s Tennessee!” I said.

Then after that, Candace Parker threw one down for the first time in her professional career.

Butts remembered me at the UT Night after party. I told her my friend and I had bought season tickets and would be sitting right behind the Bruin bench. She smiled and said, “OK, since you’re sitting so close, that’ll be part of my pre-game ritual – I’ll come out and slap your hand.” Then we practiced one.

I don’t know if she really meant it, but it was really cute that she said that in the first place.

Both USC and UCLA begin the season two weeks from tomorrow with exhibition games.

Those games can’t happen fast enough.

It’s on like donkey kong

Today is the first official day of basketball practice for Division I colleges, as per NCAA rules. In a half hour here on the west coast, some colleges, including USC, will have a “midnight madness” practice. Two weeks from Sunday is the first game for Pac-10 teams, and my first chance to use one of my Bruin season tickets.

What a relief. I am jonesin’ for some hoops. The NCAA website says, “only five months ’til March,” but hey – I say don’t wish it away. These are some of the best months of the year.

Here’s Duke’s write-up:

http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=22760&SPID=1846&DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=1606069

Tennessee didn’t waste any time, rolling out with the male practice team. Glory Johnson’s arms are ridiculous:

http://www.utladyvols.com/photogallery/gallery_index.html?school=tennw&sport=w-baskbl&

Oklahoma’s first practice left Coach Sherri Coale happy:

http://www.soonersports.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/101708aab.html

And though they aren’t ranked, I hope Louisiana Tech will be again soon. I am pulling for Associate Head Coach Teresa Weatherspoon and the rest of the staff to help the Techsters return to their glory days.

Let the games begin!

Pac-10 preview: The Arizona schools

Prior to the commencement of the 2008-2009 college basketball season, I will profile teams in two conferences, as well as various other teams around the country. Next up: the Arizona schools of the Pacific 10 Conference.

We have both the veteran and the newcomer in Arizona this year.

At Arizona State University in Tempe, there is head Coach Charli Turner Thorne. Going into her thirteenth season with the Sun Devils, she is as much known for her tough offense-minded teams that usually get an NCAA tournament invitation as she is for her short skirts and high heels.

Niya Butts has taken over the program at the University of Arizona, replacing fired head coach Joan Bonvicini. Butts is not new to coaching, having spent five years as assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, and short stints at Michigan State and Tennessee Tech. But this is the former Lady Vol’s first head coaching position.

The contrasts continue from there. In fact, both teams mirror their respective coaches a bit.

ASU is loaded with seniors – six, to be exact – including returning starters Briann January, Lauren Lacey and Sybil Dosty. They have four freshmen and two transfer players – one of which is Kali Bennett, formerly of the University of Washington, who won’t play this year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Devils have dealt with that before, as Dosty transferred to the school in 2006 after one year at the University of Tennessee.

The Wildcats boast four returning starters, but only three seniors. Five freshmen come in to the program, as does one player from Turkey and another from a junior college. Four of the freshmen hail from the Los Angeles area, so I will take a special interest in Arizona this year, as I’ve seen most of those young women play high school ball.

Thorne’s teams are known for their consistency. Last year her squad averaged 65.2 points per game, finished third in the Pac-10 conference and went to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Duke. The year before, the Devils went to the Elite Eight. USA Today picked ASU as one of their top 16 teams of the season today.

Butts, who has two championship rings from her Vol days, has had a decent record as assistant at Kentucky under former Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss. Butts helped UK to three WNIT appearances and one NCAA tournament berth. Butts also helped MSU to an NCAA berth the year she was there.

The ASU player to watch this year is Briann January, who won the Pac-10’s first defensive player of the year award last year. She takes the initiative and is explosive, which is a lethal combination.

Arizona players I’ll be watching are Reiko Thomas and Ashley Frazier. Thomas, a shooting guard, has the most natural talent of a high school guard that I’ve ever seen. She averaged 16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last year, and was the most valuable player of all of the tournaments her team participated in last year. She was named player of the city of Los Angeles last spring.

Frazier, from South Plains College in Texas, helped her team advance in its regional tournament both years she was there. Arizona coaches say she has “tremendous energy.” After seeing what Shannon Bobbitt did for Tennessee, I never overlook junior college players anymore.

The Sun Devils begin their season next month by playing in the WNIT tournament, followed by the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas. On Dec. 14 is the exciting re-match of the 2007 NCAA second round game against UC-Riverside, which ASU won after coming from behind; that game will be in Tempe this time.

In about a month, Arizona will head to a tournament at the University of Hawaii, where Thomas will face a former teammate. Major opponents for the Wildcats before Pac-10 play begins Jan. 2 include Texas A&M, Long Beach State and UC-Riverside.

I wish both teams luck this year, but because of the Tennessee and California connections on Arizona’s team, I’ll have to pull for them. I love up-and-comers, anyway.

We interrupt this preview for a great piece…….

Amazing interview with Pat Summitt on this year’s team:

http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/101408aab.html

Check out these facts:

During head coach Pat Summitt’s 35 years at the helm of the winningest program in collegiate history only 153 women have been selected to join the Lady Vol basketball family, including this season’s group of six eager newcomers. Incredibly, every Lady Vol hoopster (since 1976) has enjoyed the opportunity to play in at least one Final Four during her career, and 58 of those accomplished women have earned National Championship rings coming in 1987, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2007 and 2008.

I don’t know if there’s been a more accomplished coach in any sport. If there is, I’d like to know about it.

This quote demonstrates the way Summitt’s attitude has shaped her own legacy. She simply believes her teams will rise to greatness, and she and her players eventually believe it into being:

“It’s crossed my mind that you don’t replace players like these overnight,” deadpanned Summitt. “Rather than thinking that ‘we’re rebuilding and won’t be as strong,’ I’m thinking how excited we are about our incoming and returning talent. The question I have is, ‘how long will it take to mold them into a championship team?’ “

Indeed.

Pac-10 preview: The Oregon schools

Prior to the commencement of the 2008-2009 college basketball season, I will profile teams in two conferences, as well as various other teams around the country. We begin today with profiles of the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers of the Pacific 10 Conference.

Unfortunately for me, the state of Oregon within the Pac-10 is no-woman’s land – a basketball dead zone. Neither the UO or OSU have fielded women’s teams that have finished anywhere near the top of the conference for many years. Last year, the Ducks were 14-17 and 7th in the conference; the Beavers were 8th with a 12-19 record.

This saddens me because I grew up watching Oregon women’s basketball. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s because my dad took me to those games that I got interested, and eventually obsessed, with basketball.

And who was my first basketball hero? None other than former Oregon All-American and current coach Bev Smith. So it’s with even more sadness that I report that Smith, with an overall record of 114-100, may be on the hot seat this year, as it’s the last year of her contract. Things have got to get better in the state of Oregon for women’s basketball, and soon.

The discontent is palpable. My former teacher and friend of almost three decades has been a Ducks season ticket holder for years. She said that this year, for the first time, several long-time season ticket holders she knows have opted not to renew their seats.

“They say they can’t do it anymore,” Teach said. “It’s sad.”

Teach added that there is much speculation among fans that this will be Smith’s last year if the team doesn’t show improvement. Some fans, she said, are ready for a change.

But things weren’t always this grim. In fact, Smith’s tenure started out brilliantly. She took the job in 2001, after the UO moved to replace controversial coach Jody Runge. Smith kicked an outspoken player off the team in December. In March, a Duck team featuring current New York Liberty forward Cathrine Kraayeveld ended the season rolling around in a joyful pile on the floor, the winners of the WNIT Tournament.

There was also a brief moment of joy in 2005 when the Ducks made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament – and in Seattle, no less, where I got to see them play.

Since then, Smith has been through a few assistant coaches and a few more players. Perhaps one of the most significant losses in the latter column came just last spring, in Smith’s mysterious decision to disallow starting point guard Tamika Nurse to return for her senior year ( http://media.www.dailyemerald.com/media/storage/paper859/news/2008/04/23/Sports/Under.Scrutiny-3343002.shtml ).

As a result of that move, and the loss of senior guard Kaela Chapdelaine, the Ducks are left with three returning starters: Taylor Lilley, Ellie Manou and Nicole Canepa. Five bench players also return, and the team has four new freshmen – two from California, one from Washington state and one from Las Vegas. The only senior on the team is Rita Kollo, who is redshirting the year.

Up the road at Oregon State, fourth-year coach LaVonda Wagner is trying to put together a winning team to trump the University’s long time tradition of mediocrity. She took over the program after former head coach Judy Spoelstra’s contract wasn’t renewed after nine seasons, and so far Wagner has a 37-53 overall record. Yet, the language in the OSU team prospectus is extremely positive and optimistic. I like that.

The Beavers point to what they term “a strong nucleus of returning players,” and indeed, nine players have come back this year. These seniors also represent the first class Wagner has seen through all four years. The three newcomers are: Anita Burdick, a junior college transfer from the College of Southern Idaho; Brittany Kennedy, from basketball powerhouse Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, WA; and Kirsten Tilleman, from Bozeman, MT.

The team’s three seniors – Brittney Davis, Tiffany Ducker and Mercedes Fox-Griffin – have “a lot of experience and are hungry for success,” according to Wagner. Fox-Griffin has started all three years at OSU.

Oregon has a fairly straightforward schedule, beginning Nov. 2 with a home game against Northwest Christian University. The first real challenges for the Ducks will come in December, when they face Georgia Tech, Marquette and Baylor in the same week.

The Beavers also begin at home, and travel to the Bahamas for a tournament on Thanksgiving weekend. In December, they face UNLV and UC-Irvine. Pac-10 teams begin conference play Friday, Jan. 2.

I sincerely hope Smith can begin to turn things around and do what I wanted her to do from the start, and return Oregon to its glory days of all-stars and playoffs. If she doesn’t, it would certainly be sad to see her lose a job at her own alma mater.

Wagner has always seemed sincere and likewise, I hope she can start to pull things together in Corvallis. She should be hitting her stride this year if she’s doing things correctly.

I want to see women’s collegiate basketball in the state of Oregon be great again. I am tired of the featured sports of my home state being football and men’s basketball. As a graduate of Oregon, I say: let’s go Ducks and Beavers.

Please.

To keep a healthy knee, begin at the beginning

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (anteer-i-er croo-see-at lig-a-ment) n. – one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It connects from a posterio-lateral part of the femur to an anterio-medial part of the tibia. These attachments allow it to resist anterior translation of the tibia, in relation to the femur.

It seems like every time fans of women’s basketball turn around, another player suffers the season-ending injury known as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. And it’s no wonder, as 12 years worth of data have found that the incidence of ACL injuries for female players is twice that of males in the sport. This discrepancy is even more pronounced in soccer, where the injury ratio is four women to one man (1).

One or more factors may play a role in an ACL injury. Research has found that women tend to have stronger quadriceps than hamstrings, whereas in males, strength is more balanced between the two muscles (2). This discrepancy may explain why women tend to remain more upright during athletic participation, and thus more susceptible to injury (1, 2).

Hormones are also thought to influence ACL tear rates. Women are more likely to tear an ACL during ovulation, though doctors are not sure why (3). Other factors that can contribute to injury rates are the differences in locations of the intercondylar notches in the knees of males and females, and the wider angle of the leg bones to the knee due to wider hips in females.

University of Tennessee Assistant Athletics Director and head Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak has seen her share of ACL injuries in her 20 years at the school. The most recent was the injury freshman Vicki Baugh sustained in the final minutes of last spring’s National Championship game. Moshak said late season injuries are common.

“There are a lot of over-use injuries, when players keep beating up the body with the same motor patterns,” she said.

Moshak said certain players seem to be predisposed to ACL tears due to a combination of biomechanical factors and personality – the “kamikazes,” she said.

“A lot of it is a biomechanical issue,” she said. “But we can correct much of that.”

One of the ways Moshak and Tennessee Head Strength Coach Heather Mason work together to do that is what Moshak calls neutralizing over-pronation of the foot. An athlete who over-pronates is given orthotics and a program to strengthen the arches of the foot. The result is improved stabilization.

Prevention and rehabilitation also involve a lot of core training, according to Moshak.

“We focus on stabilization more so than strengthening,” she said. “You have to look above and below the injury.”

Over the last decade or so, coaches on all levels have taught female players how to jump and strengthen the legs, and numerous workout recommendations to those effects abound (4, 5). But Moshak said ACL tear prevention needs to go much deeper than that, to the parents and coaches of young players.

“Today you see athletes playing one sport competitively at a young age,” Moshak said. “The bodies of these kids aren’t getting rest.

“An athlete has to get from point A to point B, and it’s up to the coach to train them properly.”
Moshak said it’s extremely important to instill the correct motor patterns for movement in athetes at a young age, when they’re forming playing habits.

“Adults oversee kids, and there’s a right and wrong way to move,” she said. “They need to learn the difference as they grow and develop.”

Hopefully, as youth basketball becomes even more specialized, coaches will focus just as much on Strength and Conditioning as sports skills. It will take some time, because even today not all high school coaches have an S and C program for their players.

But I’m optimistic that coaches of middle school and younger-aged girls will eventually focus on agility, proprioception and other crucial skills in developing players. It’s just a matter of time before the S and C industry that is now engrained in all U.S. college athletic programs trickles down to secondary schools.

1. http://athletics.mcgill.ca/sportsmed_interest_details.ch2?article_id3
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anterior_cruciate_ligament
3. http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID78
4. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/gallery/acl/flash.htm
5. http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/knee_injuries/a/aa022202a.htm

Dave Chappelle said it: Wrap it Up!

The Shock closed out the series today, sweeping San Antonio in three games. I was really happy for Alexis Hornbuckle – the first woman to win an NCAA title and a WNBA championship in the same year. You make the University of Tennessee and all your fans proud, girl. Seeing the pictures of her with the championship hat on was such a deja vu……

I was also happy for Taj McWilliams-Franklin. I’ve always appreciated her class, authenticity and warmth, and seeing her emotion in the closing moments today was a warm fuzzy.

The best moment of the game for me was after Becky Hammon fouled Lex hard in the closing minutes. Lex went to the floor and landed face down. I was talking to the TV but then got quiet when Lex kept laying there. Her teammates went to her and bent down. Suddenly Lex raised her left hand, her index finger extended in the universal “one minute, please” sign. Her teammates must have busted up, because when Lex finally raised her head, she was laughing too. (That’s one thing I’ve always loved about her is her sense of humor).

I’ve never been happy to see a WNBA season end before today. This has been an emotionally tiring few months, and I need a break.

_______________________________

This interesting interview with Candace Parker was posted yesterday on wnba.com:

http://www.wnba.com/features/parker_081004.html

She is particularly frank in this piece, which I enjoyed. Ms. Parker keeps a lot in, and I do too so I understand. But it’s nice to know that even Superwoman is human.

She admitted she’s exhausted, and says she’ll be sleeping. (Good!!)

I liked the quote about how her dad won’t even be satisfied until “her excellent is her excellent.” But this was particulary revealing:

“He knows how much I hurt after we lost and how upset I was that we aren’t in the Finals.”

Yeah. And I had wondered Friday after the MVP ceremony, when they showed her in the crowd at the game, if it was hard for her to be there. I’m sure it was.

Honestly, I still feel wistful about last weekend too. I’m pretty much OK now, but ESPN ran the video of that stupid last-second shot a few times, and I turned away. I don’t want to see it again.

It was a good year, but there’s so much to look forward to next year.

College season four weeks away………………………..

😀

Candace Parker wins both ROY and MVP

Love this one

Chillin

Pointin

Really hyphy

I sure am proud of her. She is the only other player besides Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld to be both ROY and MVP in the same year. The woman is phenomenal.

more thoughts on the women’s game

Last Friday the LA Times published in its online edition the response I wrote to a poorly-written column the week before, slamming the WNBA. (It was written by a young woman, no less, which was one of the things that most offended the offended). I researched for it and wrote the piece, after which I edited it about four times. It turned out pretty good, I think:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2008/09/the-wnba-anothe.html

I’ve been writing since I was 4, which is why I’m a perfectionist about the art form. If I’d had a little extra time the column could have been better, which is why I responded to my own work on the site. I had to outline a few story ideas I’ve had for the WNBA for a long time, in light of the original columnist’s jab. The women of the league have to go through so much to play the sport they love and make a living. Wouldn’t it be nice to read about their lives in other countries? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out a bit more about the new Sparks owners?

Even at my age, there are times when I marvel at what a cruel and unforgiving world this is. It took Title 9 to get a level playing field for women in sport. Women’s basketball has been an Olympic sport only since 1976, and the sport wasn’t seriously practiced collegiately until the early 1970’s. The WNBA is all of 12 years old, and some people criticize its players and teams for not playing like the 62-year-old NBA. It’s like so many other things in life: that’s the breaks, kid.

Last summer I got into an email argument with one of the Times’ female sports staffers. This was her closing paragraph in her first reply to me:

As for your assertion, “If you would write something uplifting about women’s basketball, it might help the sport rather than tear it down. You are contributing to the problem by writing columns such as yesterday’s,” it is not my job to be the public relations person for the WNBA. It is not my responsibility, because I’m female, to praise a female-dominated enterprise that I know to be flawed and that I find less than compelling. As a columnist, it’s my job to voice an opinion based on my experience and knowledge. I’t’s my opinion that the WNBA is at a crossroads and may need to alter its business plan to survive.

She’s right in that it’s not her job to be a public relations agent for the WNBA. But the other comments are illuminating. It’s obvious she doesn’t like the WNBA, and neither does the rest of the sports staff. And it’s easy to attack it in this Kobe and Lakers-obsessed town.

I used to be a newspaper reporter, and when an editor and/or a reporter like something, they’ll write about it; they’ll push it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Did anyone see the column following the Olympics that praised Kobe Bryant for his behavior at the games, i.e. giving him props for acting like he should have been acting all along? I hope no one did, because it was vomit-inducing. It’s obvious the Times has its collective head too far up Kobe’s rear to care about other types of basketball. High school games barely get any play in that paper, either.

But I have to give the Times sports editor credit for letting me speak out, and take a few jabs at the paper in the process. I hope someday the Times will give women’s hoops a fair shake on their pages. In the meantime, I’ll fill in the blanks as best I can for all the great things they’re missing.

Vols pics!!

One of the great people who I’ve met on the Summitt message board, Mike, has helped me with quite a few pictures the last few months. Now he’s allowing me to share some of his.The lucky homey goes to all the Lady Vol events, and has taken a lot of pics lately of our new team. I’m getting excited. I mean, I barely know them, but I’m excited for the future. I have good feelings about it. An inside source at Tennessee told me today that “Everyday in practice is a new adventure unfolding on the court. Like a soap opera, you’ve just gotta tune in tomorrow to see what happens!”Try to keep me from doing that.The thing that strikes me are the similarities between the new team and the team that just left. Mike says there’s another beautiful one, like CP, and Brianna Bass is just as short as Bobbitt and wears her hair similarly. Mike’s letting me share his photos, so I thank him.PhotobucketThe new Vols sign autographs after the football game a few weeks ago. Bass is the one in the stutters.PhotobucketBeing introduced at the game.TeamGet used to this sight: the huddle.PhotobucketAt practice……PhotobucketAt practice 2……PhotobucketThe new Nikki Caldwell, aka Daedra Charles.Did I say I’m excited???!!!

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